2019 Lexus IS Series vs. 2019 Nissan Maxima

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Lexus IS Series have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Nissan Maxima doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

The IS Series’ optional pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Maxima doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The IS Series offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Maxima doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

Both the IS Series and the Maxima have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available blind spot warning systems, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Lexus IS Series is safer than the Nissan Maxima:

 

IS Series

Maxima

 

Passenger

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

Chest Compression

.6 inches

.7 inches

Leg Forces (l/r)

426/505 lbs.

840/589 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Lexus IS Series is safer than the Nissan Maxima:

 

IS Series

Maxima

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

99

295

Chest Movement

.9 inches

.9 inches

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

89

391

Spine Acceleration

33 G’s

57 G’s

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Max Damage Depth

15 inches

16 inches

HIC

295

300

Spine Acceleration

39 G’s

53 G’s

Hip Force

806 lbs.

997 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

The IS Series comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Maxima’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

Lexus’ powertrain warranty covers the IS Series 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Nissan covers the Maxima. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 6 years or 70,000 miles. Coverage on the Maxima ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The IS Series’ corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the Maxima’s (6 vs. 5 years).

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are better in initial quality than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus 8th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 1 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 10th.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus first in reliability, above the industry average. With 34 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 10th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in reliability. Nissan is ranked 14th.

Engine

The IS 350’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 11 more horsepower (311 vs. 300) and 19 lbs.-ft. more torque (280 vs. 261) than the Maxima’s 3.5 DOHC V6.

As tested in Motor Trend the IS 350 is faster than the Nissan Maxima:

 

IS Series

Maxima

Zero to 30 MPH

1.9 sec

2.4 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5.3 sec

6 sec

Zero to 80 MPH

9 sec

9.6 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

14.1 sec

14.7 sec

Quarter Mile

13.9 sec

14.5 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

99.4 MPH

99.3 MPH

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the IS Series’ brake rotors are larger than those on the Maxima:

 

IS Series

Maxima

Front Rotors

13.1 inches

12.6 inches

Rear Rotors

12.2 inches

12.13 inches

The IS Series’ brakes have 7% more swept area (the area covered by the brake pads) than the Maxima (476 vs. 444 square inches), so the IS Series has more braking power available.

The IS Series stops much shorter than the Maxima:

 

IS Series

Maxima

 

60 to 0 MPH

111 feet

125 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

The IS Series’ optional 255/35R18 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Maxima SR/Platinum’s 40 series tires.

Suspension and Handling

The IS Series has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Maxima’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The IS Series offers an optional driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The Maxima’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The IS Series’ front to rear weight distribution is more even (53% to 47%) than the Maxima’s (60.7% to 39.3%). This gives the IS Series more stable handling and braking.

The IS Series AWD handles at .89 G’s, while the Maxima Platinum pulls only .81 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The IS 350 AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1 seconds quicker than the Maxima Platinum (26 seconds @ .72 average G’s vs. 27 seconds @ .67 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the IS Series’ turning circle is 3.9 feet tighter than the Maxima’s (34.2 feet vs. 38.1 feet). The IS Series AWD’s turning circle is 2.7 feet tighter than the Maxima’s (35.4 feet vs. 38.1 feet).

Chassis

The IS Series is 8.5 inches shorter than the Maxima, making the IS Series easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The design of the Lexus IS Series amounts to more than styling. The IS Series has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .28 Cd. That is lower than the Maxima (.29 to .3) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the IS Series get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

The IS Series has .1 inches more front hip room, .2 inches more rear headroom and .5 inches more rear hip room than the Maxima.

Servicing Ease

The engine in the IS Series is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Maxima. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because there are no rear spark plugs and the accessory belts are in front.

The IS Series has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The Maxima doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Lexus service is better than Nissan. J.D. Power ranks Lexus third in service department satisfaction. With a 47% lower rating, Nissan is ranked 20th.

Ergonomics

Unlike the driver-only memory system optional in the Maxima (except S/SV/SL), the IS Series offers an optional driver and passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat, steering wheel position and outside mirror angle and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The IS Series’ front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Maxima’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the IS Series offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Maxima doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The IS Series’ standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Nissan only offers heated mirrors on the Maxima SV/SL/SR/Platinum.

Economic Advantages

The IS Series will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the IS Series will retain 47.56% to 50.51% of its original price after five years, while the Maxima only retains 36.9% to 38.7%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the IS Series is less expensive to operate than the Maxima because it costs $72 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the IS Series than the Maxima, including $212 less for a muffler, $17 less for front brake pads and $5 less for a fuel pump.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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